Photo Binge 2014 – Day 4: Winnie, High Island, and Stephen F. Austin SP
After the long hot day of shooting at Brazos Bend State Park, my shooting partner and I drove into Winnie, Texas to stay the night. Too far to drive home and quite frankly we had designs on shooting the following morning. We had a meal at Al-T’s Seafood and Steak Restaurant where, among other delights, we enjoyed Gator Tenders. Or effectively, gator dipped in batter and fried up like chicken strips. No, it didn’t taste like chicken. It actually tasted more like so-called steak fingers. Very yummy (as was the rest of the meal–highly recommended).
It reminded me though of the time we were in Iceland and I had been making images of sheep in a field. A little later in the day we stopped at a gas station and picked up some lamb dogs, or Pylsur. After getting back to the car, my bride asks me how it feels to be eating what I was just taking pictures of. And of course I replied, “Great… especially with the fried onions and rémoulade.” I don’t think she talked to me for a few hours. But I digress.
We left fairly early out of Winnie the next morning to head down to High Island. High Island was one of those places that I’ve wanted to go for a long time. The images of Herons, Spoonbills, and Egrets coming out of High Island’s various bird watching locations were legendary back in the heyday of Texas Photo Forum being up and running. Distance and work obligations had always kept me away. But since we were in the neighborhood (by plan) and since there were no work obligations with my retirement, this was a great time to go.
We started at the Boy Scout Woods. This was done, as much as anything, because in the description it said there was a place to pay for our day pass. When we arrived there was nobody to be found, just an honor box to drop the $7 a person fee. So we dropped our money in and walked around. And frankly, there just wasn’t that much to see there. Wrong season. Too much canopy. And possibly just too early in the day. And tons of mosquitoes under the canopy. There was one small meadow where we had some luck, but overall there just wasn’t much to see. I also had another tripod failure, but a quick turn of the screwdriver and life was good again.
We then moved over to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. And at first it seemed like repeat of the Boy Scout Woods experience. And I’m thinking to myself, “Self, we drove all this way for this?” And then I got a little further down the trail towards the ponds and it was all worth it. Well, mostly worth it. The biting bugs got a little crazy towards the end, but otherwise it was all good.
One of the highlights on the day was seeing my first Seaside Dragonlet. While on the property I really wasn’t sure what it was I was looking at. I figured it was a Dragonlet based on body size and shape, but I wasn’t sure on the ID. A couple of weeks ago I really made a mess of trying to ID a Band-winged Dragonlet at Medina River Natural Area so I was kind of sure it was something I hadn’t seen before, but I wanted to wait to get to the books before I was sure.
Also also along the walk we spotted a bunch of other dragonflies to include one club tail species (that I still do not have a full ID on… that will take some more time later). It really got to a point of not so much of finding something to shoot but more what were we going to shoot.
We also got some really nice views of various shore birds, to include the aforementioned Spoonbills and Egrets. Wonderful gorgeous birds.
The further down the trail we got, the more we seemed to be getting pestered by the biting insects, so we made a hasty retreat out of there, grabbed some lunch in Winnie, and headed back towards home.
As we were going through Houston, my shooting partner says, “Hey Jim, is there anywhere else between here and there to shoot at?” I went through my mental maps and said, “Well, Stephen F. Austin State Park is nearly on the way back.” And with that the short detour was planned.
I had never been to Stephen F. Austin SP, but it had been on my Texas Photo Blinds map forever because it had a Wildlife Viewing station. Often this is synonymous with bird blind. So as we were getting into the park, flashing my State Park pass, I ask the question of the park rangers. No, it really is just a Wildlife Viewing station–a project that keeps being worked on for various Eagle Scout projects in the area.
We made a quick roll over there and sure enough, just a Wildlife Viewing Station. Effectively a fence with openings in it to view wildlife. Aimed towards birds, but really open to many types of wildlife. Bummer.
It was still steaming hot but in spite of that we took a quick hike up one of the shorter trails. The trails have definite possibilities for great odonates and butterflies, but this was not a day to explore it further. Just too darned hot.
And away we went in the car after a few shots and a promise to myself that I need to come back.
And so Day 4 of the Binge came to a close. Burnt. Bit. Tired. But with about 1300 images in the camera from the two days. And the thought to myself that tomorrow has to be a shorter day…
About the Images:
As always, the Standard Gear was employed with ISO 400 on all of the images. As always, on the tripod but with no flash. The lead image was from Stephen F. Austin SP and was the back end if you will of the Glider double–there are only two species of Glider native to Texas and I got both in one day. This Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) was made on the Sycamore trail in a very awkward location. My shutter/aperture mix was 1/60 sec at f/11. The Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) was the predominant and maybe only species of dragonfly we saw on the day at the Boy Scout Woods. My 60D reports that the shutter/aperture mix was 1/320 sec at f/11. The Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) technically started the glider double though it appears second in this post. Shutter and aperture were 1/125 sec at f/10, respectively. I made plenty of images of the Seaside Dragonlets, but the dorsal view of this female specimen really made for a stunning shot. Tech specs were 1/125 sec at f/10. And finishing out the images for Day 4 is this Robber Fly (species TBD). He had a better day than his prey. Shutter/aperture combo was 1/60 sec at f/11.